As incremental as Apple can and has been in recent years, what the company’s products will look like in five years is up for grabs, and unlikely to be what we expect. That’s the nature of looking ahead. We can see general trends, but not specifics. Macs in 2021 will be thinner, lighter, faster, and after that the future gets cloudy in a hurry.
Limits Of Thin
Just as Moore’s Law has faded into obscurity thanks to physics, we can see the Mac running into a few problems in 2021, too. How thin can a Mac be? How high can the screen’s resolution go? How long can a battery from the future really last? Oh, and will Siri finally show up on a Mac with a Touch ID, facial recognition, and voice recognition five years from now?
Most technology prognostications simply amplify the incremental changes that are obvious. Thinner, lighter, faster is the inevitable result. We’ve seen it with the iMac, the Mac, the Mac mini, even the Mac Pro, and that’s the inevitable progression seen in iPhone and iPad, too. Of course, everyone wants a thinner Watch.
Beyond thinner, lighter, faster, I see a growing list of changes Apple could bring to the world’s most popular personal computing platform (which people buy because they want to, vs. using what the boss tells them to use).
Wireless – Yes, Macs have Wi-Fi already, but that’s just for local connections (and an iPhone HotSpot is a local, albeit mobile, internet connection. Come on. Put some 5G LTE love into the Mac, Apple.
Security – File Vault and a password go a long way toward locking down your Mac but the time has come for face and voice recognition to marry Touch ID (user configurable so Siri on the Mac might recognize you as you sit down in front of the screen and just let you in anyway).
Battery Life – Thinner, lighter, faster has physical issues and one of them is the Mac’s battery size which already takes up a huge chunk of the case. Where is the solar powered option, Apple? And, by solar power I mean the Mac would run if you pointed a flashlight at it. Hey, maybe the light from the screen could power little solar panels to the side of the trackpad and the Mac could be perpetually powered after the first charge. I’d buy that.
Liquid Metal – Aluminum seems to be Apple’s case material of choice so far in the 21st century but the company has spent a few hundred million dollars on Liquidmetal. The idea here is to have the Mac encased in, well, a case that does not break, dent, scratch or otherwise look old after 10 years. Drop a Mac to a concrete floor? Nothing happens. That should be in the future. Oh, and a waterproof Mac.
Voice Recognition – Decades ago executives would dictate into a dictaphone audio recorder and hand a tape to a secretary to be typed up and distributed. Those days are not completely gone, but voice recognition should be sufficiently improved that we could dictate to the Mac whatever we want to write, or whatever command we could implement– Star Trek style– to accomplish tasks. It just seems sad that personal computers have been around in the current form– screen and keyboard– for nearly 40 years and we’re still staring into a screen and banging away on a keyboard to get anything done. Oh, and email should be outlawed.
The MacPad – What separates OS X from iOS? It’s complicated. Underneath, there are many similarities, but Mac point and click apps tend to be more powerful than touch apps but the gap is closing. Will it close completely by 2021 and will we have a MacPad device that does anything a Mac can do or will do, but also has a touchscreen, isn’t powered by Intel Inside, is always connected to the internet. This. Must. Happen. Apple can deliver Mac OS X power in a smaller device, as proved by the new MacBook which is more powerful than an iPad Pro and is priced just a few hundred dollars more. MacPad should be Apple’s power device of the future.